MSU College of Arts and Sciences announces new director for African American Studies

Contact: Sarah Nicholas

Donald M. Shaffer (Photo by Megan Bean)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A Mississippi State associate professor of English and African American Studies is the new leader of the land-grant university’s African American Studies Program.

Donald M. Shaffer officially assumed his new role Aug. 1 after serving as interim director for the past year.

An MSU faculty member since 2008, he is chair of the African American Studies curriculum committee and a board member of the Mississippi Humanities Council. His research examines the social and historical construction of race in African American and Southern literature, linking authors whose literary works engage racial and identity politics in American culture. He also serves as mentor for Presidential Scholars in MSU’s Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College.

Shaffer said he is “committed to fostering a greater understanding of African American culture and lived experience—both past and present—through teaching and scholarship.” 
“I believe what distinguishes our program is the unique opportunity it affords students to pursue a minor in African American Studies at a land-grant institution located in a state that is the veritable birth place of African American culture,” Shaffer said.

Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Rick Travis said he is enthusiastic about the “invigorating focus” Shaffer brings to the program.

“Dr. Shaffer is supporting and challenging students enrolled in the program, especially as it relates to pursuing their research and creative activities,” Travis said. “Under his leadership, we expect the program to provide a strong academic experience to complement its role in providing a wealth of public programs.”

Shaffer said his goal is to create an interdisciplinary program that can facilitate both the research and professional goals of students, and he plans to grow the program in both number of students and courses offered.

“I want to create opportunities for students engaged in research relevant to African American Studies to collaborate with faculty and share their research in a professional academic setting,” Shaffer said. “I hope to accomplish this through the work of the Society of African American Studies, our undergraduate student organization, and through our efforts to support faculty and undergraduate research projects.”

Housed in the College of Arts and Sciences, the AAS program offers interdisciplinary courses encompassing history, literature, politics and other aspects of black life and culture, leading to a minor in the study. Graduate students can earn an online diversity certificate. Students gain knowledge, sensitivities and skills to function in today’s global society.

A Jackson native, Shaffer received his Ph.D. in English from the University of Chicago in 2005, his master’s degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1997 and his bachelor’s in English from Jackson State University in 1995.

In 2012, Shaffer won the Ochillo Award for best published article for his work in The Griot: The Journal of African American Studies.

MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences includes more than 5,300 students, 300 full-time faculty members, nine doctoral programs and 25 academic majors offered in 14 departments. Complete details about the College of Arts and Sciences or the African American Studies program may be found at or

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Wednesday, August 7, 2019 - 8:17 am